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Archive for September, 2010

Current and Forthcoming Attractions:
Book Trailers, Book Covers

September 30, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Book Covers, Book Trailers

Until recently an author’s description was the only way a reader could visualize a main character or novel’s setting. But — through the talented use of video and high tech graphics — book trailers and even book covers are tempting us with a novel’s storyline. The following are a mere handful of current and forthcoming books worthy of your attention.

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Ivy Pochoda’s debut novel, The Art of Disappearing, was released in paperback edition this week and its new cover captures the entire magical story. For more on this book, please read Ivy Pochoda’s The Art of Disappearing.

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Kate Ledger has chosen to “show and tell” more of her debut novel, Remedies, in a lovely, narrated Book Trailer. Please take a look.

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Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA coming January 4, 2011, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) continues with Lauren Wood’s advice videos the can be viewed here. And who will burst Hailey Kendrick’s bubble on its release date — January 4, 2011?

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Kim Stagliano will be the first 2011 class member of The Debutante Ball to be presented to the reading public on November 1, 2010 when her memoir, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism, debuts.

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Melanie Benjamin’s historical fiction debut, Alice I Have Been, will be released in paperback on December 28, 2010.

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Debutante Eleanor Brown takes her turn at bowing, then dancing around the ballroom floor with her first novel, The Weird Sisters, debuting on February 17, 2011.

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A warm welcome to The Divining Wand’s most recent addition/author-to-be Jael McHenry who debuts with The Kitchen Daughter on April 12, 2011.

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Debutante Elise Allen presents her first solo (more about that later) YA novel, Populazzi, in spring/summer 2011.

And yes that’s a mere handful of what’s out there now and what awaits.

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Meg Waite Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells coming March 22, 2011) announces:

“I’m doing a special giveaway for readers and book bloggers this week: readers can win a copy of Indie Next selection, Barnes & Noble Discover pick, and Library Journal “best books of the year” The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. Bloggers can win TWO copies: one to read and one to giveaway on their own blog. (Details can be found here).”

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Announcement: The winners of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life are Jonita and Suzanne. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Richard Hine

September 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Richard Hine’s debut novel, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, launches on October 12, 2010 with this descriptive tagline:

Working in the media business inspires all kinds of passions in Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch

Hmm, makes one wonder, doesn’t it? However these glowing words are more than definitive:

“This wry contemporary comedy — one part Glengarry Glen Ross and two parts Sophie Kinsella — will make readers cheer…. A winner in every way.” __Publishers Weekly

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch for Monday, October 11, 2010 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

London-born Richard Hine began his career as an advertising copywriter. After moving to New York at the age of 24, he held creative and marketing positions at Adweek, Time magazine, where he became publisher of Time’s Latin America edition, and The Wall Street Journal, where he became vice president of marketing and business development. While at The Wall Street Journal, he oversaw the marketing campaign behind the launch of the Journal’s Weekend Edition in 2005.

Richard Hine’s fiction has been published in numerous literary publications, including London Magazine and Brooklyn Review. He is also a winner of and two-time finalist in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, and an interview of him appears in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Book (Andrews McMeel Publishing,2008). He lives in New York City with the novelist Amanda Filipacchi.

RUSSELL WILEY IS OUT TO LUNCH is his first novel.

And now it’s upclose and personal time with Richard:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A:I learned my lessons in the wrong order

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Be good. Have fun where appropriate.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: The absence of all irritants.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: The inauguration of President Palin.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: On an island or a mountaintop with my girlfriend.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Joseph Heller. When I worked for Time Magazine as a promotion writer, they told me I was doing his old job. Twenty years after he wrote Something Happened, I could see its echoes at the Time Inc of the 1990s.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama, for proving that America can still be a meritocracy, for displaying civility in the face of hostility, and for demonstrating intelligence in the face of stupidity

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: I recently invented “Aujourd’hui Day,” a new holiday which occurs 365 days a year. So I wish my girlfriend “Happy Aujourd’hui Day,” every day. It hasn’t taken off yet, but it will.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: If I could sing in tune, there would be no stopping me.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Finishing a novel.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I think I’m being funny when I’m not.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m always funny.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Wasting time.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: An airborne virus that makes everyone sensible, reasonable and tolerant.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Red hair.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Joseph Andrews.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: The Joker.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Geoff Hurst was a West Ham United striker who scored a hat trick for England in the 1966 World Cup final. I would congratulate him for that fine achievement and curse him for the lifelong misery he caused by inspiring me to become a West Ham supporter.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Networks that give equal time to people who want to debate scientific theories that are already proven.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Campaigning against the return of voodoo economics.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Bestselling novelist.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Curiosity, creativity and childishness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Amy’s Tofu Scramble.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes by Elvis Costello
Thick As Thieves by The Jam.
William It Was Really Nothing by The Smiths.
Common People by Pulp.
French Navy by Camera Obscura.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
Something Happened by Joseph Heller
The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman by J.P. Donleavy
Two Lives by William Trevor
Nude Men by Amanda Filipacchi

“Always funny,” creative, and thought-provoking, Richard Hine is a debut author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Karen McQuestion and A Scattered Life. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Stacey Ballis on What a Character!

September 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography) is known for her strong, believable characters — including a character strong and realistic enough to change a reader’s life (see Fan Mail: An Author’s Most Memorable Reward, II). In today’s guest post, the author details the questions she asks when creating those true-to-life characters.]

What a Character!

As an author, I never get tired of hearing from my readers…those little e-mails or tweets or comments on my blog or good reviews on Amazon are what keep me going when I am sitting alone in front of the computer with a nap tempting me. But as much as I love the notes that tell me a story was interesting or a theme was relevant, the things that makes my heart beat faster are the ones that say that the characters were REAL.

As a reader, I cannot fully engage with characters unless they feel real to me. Even in fantasy or science fiction stories, the humanity has to ring true. I can absolutely believe that Thursday Next can pop in and out of works of fiction and engage with the characters in famous books, as long as she continues to struggle with her relationship with her mother and worries about her marriage. When I start a book, the main character is always the first place I begin. Forget “story”, plot, for me, comes later. I want to know who she is, where did she come from, what is the world she lives in, and then the story can begin to take shape.

There are a lot of elements to making a character ring true for your readers. Some of it is ephemeral and unknowable, the essence of the writer’s art and inspiration. But much of it is craft. When you are working with a character, some things should always be in your mind…

What is their voice? This is everything from the cadence of their speech in dialogue, to the way they think, to the way they respond to the inevitable conflicts of the book. It is essential that this be consistent throughout, and depending on the world of the book, be as realistic as possible. Especially in dialogue. Would you hear someone use those words in that order in the world of that character? Would your twenty-something working girl in 2010 really say “I simply cannot begin to fathom such a thing.” Or would she say “Seriously? Simply. Not. Possible. No way.”

What are their flaws? All humans have flaws. Sometimes they are small quirks that are endearing; sometimes they are major personal demons that negatively impact our relationships with everyone around us. If your character doesn’t have enough flaws, they won’t feel real, they will feel too perfect. Your characters should occasionally say or do something you as a writer or reader wish they wouldn’t. They should make mistakes, sometimes big ones. They should self-doubt, self-delude, and self-destruct. They should push away the people they need most, and embrace the people who are toxic. They should stay when they should leave, and leave when they should stay. Because we all do. We all fail and flounder and choose the wrong path, and if we don’t, we are unendurably dull.

What do they learn? Your book doesn’t need to have some big “moral of the story”, but your characters should learn something or grow in some way during the course of the book. We are learning and growing every day in our lives and it is this forward momentum that is part and parcel of our journey as people. If your character is exactly the same on the last page as on the first, they have gone nowhere as people and they won’t feel nearly as human as they should.

What is their baggage? Often writers take so much time figuring out what a character’s present looks like that they forget that this person was not just hatched into the world full-fledged. Knowing where your characters come from, how they were raised, what their heartbreaks and successes and loves and losses looked like will inform how they engage with their current reality. Your reader might not understand why your heroine would turn down the date with the dashing lawyer unless they have been made aware of her alcoholic lawyer uncle who was always so mean to her poor dad. We all have a past, your characters need one too.

At the end of the day, you will be the best judge of how successful you are in making your characters ring true. Sometimes it can be as easy as having them make a mistake, or share a story from their past. Sometimes it will be as complex as fleshing out an addiction or a dysfunctional relationship. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your characters need to perfect to be likable. In fact, often the opposite is true. The characters from my books that get the most reaction and empathy from my readers are the ones who are flawed but still sympathetic.

Sydney, the heroine of my first book INAPPROPRIATE MEN engages in an affair with a married man, while she herself is still married. In SLEEPING OVER, a character breaks up with her boyfriend after she suffers a miscarriage…pushing away the one person who is trying to take care of her. My third book, ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT explores what happens when professional success negatively impacts your personal life, and Lily, the heroine, alienates not only her best friends, but her colleagues and potential lovers as well. In THE SPINSTER SISTERS, keeping her feelings bottled up is Jodi’s downfall, in spite of the fact that she is a self-help guru, we see her consistently behaving in ways she counsels people not to behave. And in my new book, GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT, Mel, who has worked very hard to lose half her body weight, nevertheless continues to let stress push her to binge eat, and she forgets to be patient and forgiving with the people in her life.

I love a good plot as much as the next girl, and I always hope that the stories I tell are interesting in and of themselves. But mostly, I hope that the people who live in my head and reveal themselves on my pages move into your life in a way that makes you truly believe that they could, simply, exist.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post Karen McQuestion and A Scattered Life. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Karen McQuestion and A Scattered Life

September 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although much has been written about Karen McQuestion’s extraordinary journey to publishing success (including Guest Karen McQuestion on Keeping the Faith), the most important story remains between the covers of her debut novel, A Scattered Life. After all that was the Kindle book optioned for film, adored by ebook readers, and put Karen — not only on the literary map — but in The Wall Street Journal as well.

So what’s it all about? Simply put, the novel’s story is based on a friendship triangle between three women and explores the author’s fascination with the idea of feeling like an outsider in your own family.

Acknowledging that her fiction is basically character-driven and the plot evolves from the characters’ actions, Karen began writing A Scattered Life with the following scene in mind:

“A shy man has a crush on a waitress who works at a Mexican restaurant. He’s thirtyish and conservative, almost nerdy, and she’s much younger, a free spirit who is at loose ends in the world. He’s been coming in to the restaurant to watch her, never quite getting up the nerve to talk to her until something unexpected happens.”

Now add the details that the scene takes place in a Wisconsin small town with the Green Bay Packers playing on Monday Night Football and the reader is likely to take a leap of faith and be drawn into the action too.

To share a bit more, here is the synopsis:

When free-spirited Skyla marries proper and predictable Thomas Plinka, she finally finds the love and stability she’s craved since childhood. She also acquires a new family: mother-in-law Audrey, disapproving and suspicious of Skyla’s nomadic past; father-in-law Walt, gruff but kind; and Thomas’s brothers, sofa-bound Jeffrey, and Dennis, who moved across the country seemingly to avoid the family.

Skyla settles into marriage and motherhood, but quiet life in small-town Wisconsin can’t quell feelings of restlessness. Then into her life comes Madame Picard, the local psychic from the disreputable bookstore, Mystic Books, and new neighbor, Roxanne, whose goal in life is to have twelve kids even though she can’t manage the five she has. Despite her family’s objections, Skyla befriends Roxanne and gets a job at the bookstore, and life gets fuller and more complicated than she ever imagined.

Next enjoy a lovely Video for A Scattered Life.

If the video reminds you of a quiet, somewhat simpler life, settle into Skyla’s neighborhood. It is there that the author has created a place reminiscent of the way people used to connect — on a one-on-one basis — and care about each other. However, despite the comfort zone feeling, this story of three women and their daily routines is not without problems.

Funny, poignant and incredibly honest, The Divining Wand wondered if the characters told Karen their stories or if the tales were written around them? And she said:

“I have heard other writers say that characters “speak” to them, but I’ve never had that experience. I usually have an impression of who my characters are, and a situation, and I work from there. On several occasions, I’ve tried to plot things out ahead of time. It seems the most sensible way to do things, but I’ve never been able to make plotting or outlining work. Once I know the whole storyline, I find that I don’t want to write it because it feels like homework. The fun of writing is finding out what happens next. For me, writing fiction feels more like discovering than creating, and I’ll often have eureka moments–oh, now I know why she was acting that way! I always aim for a happy (or at least hopeful) ending, but I never really know how it’s going to go until I get there.”

TRUST: The above explanation could be the most telling of the author’s success in writing genuine and appealing novels. For Karen McQuestion focuses on what intrigues her about universal human truths — those that are likely our own truths. A Scattered Life highlights this fact by presenting three unforgettable women who actually are Everywomen at some point in life. And, while their personalities and immediate situations differ, they all know (or have known) how it feels to be left out. Whether it’s the young wife, the next door neighbor with five sons, or the mother-in-law, these women share the desire to belong and feel needed.

Independence, strength, and accepting others for who they are go a long way towards belonging. Or it could be as simple as applying the wise words of “Open your heart.” In A Scattered Life, the reader will undoubtedly recognize at least one character as someone she knows and then realize the extent to which lives are intertwined. Karen McQuestion’s novel also reminds how important daily lives are, no matter how mundane they may seem because even small details make a difference later.

Author (The Dogs of Babal, Lost and Found, and The Nobodies Album) Carolyn Parkhurst Reviews “A Scattered Life” and concludes with the following:

McQuestion writes with a sharp eye and a sure voice, and as a reader, I was willing to go wherever she wanted to take me. After I finished the book, I thought about how I might describe it to a friend, and I settled on a phrase that says a lot without saying very much at all. It’s the way these conversations usually end: “You should read this. It’s good.”

Yes you should read this book. It’s much better than good!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Fan Mail: An Author’s
Most Memorable Reward, II

September 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Last month’s post on how much fan mail meant to authors surprised some visitors, while inspiring others to finally write their own personal messages. The written word is powerful in expressing heartfelt gratitude and here are more author responses to memorably touching fan mail:

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“A man wrote to say that my depiction of alcohol and drug addiction (in a teenage character, Hunter Cay) felt very real. He’d finished my novel between classes and had been crying when his sixth grade students came in. He wrote, “Thanks for touching my heart.” Which, in turn, touched mine. It is so wonderful and kind for people to take the time to write and share like that.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“One tremendously moving piece of fan mail came from a woman who wrote that REMEDIES had resonated with her own personal tragedy. I got teary at my computer when I read her note. Like the characters in REMEDIES, she and her husband had lost a child. She wrote that the effects of that loss have continued to ripple through her marriage. She wrote that the novel had been difficult to read, and also, ultimately, comforting, and that even though her own outcome was still in progress, the book had come along at exactly the right time.”

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“These days you receive more emails than mail, I’m afraid. I did get a request from a girl to sign my photo and send it to her for her scrapbook. It made me feel like a teen rock star, so of course I did it. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from people. It means a lot when someone tells me that they stayed up half the night, or were late because they simply had to finish my book. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job right.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“They’re all memorable, because I’m touched every time a reader takes the time to let me know how much they loved my book.”

~CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care, and Critical Condition coming November 30, 2010):

“I’ve gotten several letters from fans facing painful medical crises, including one woman whose cancer pain kept her up at nights, unable to sleep or get comfortable. They have written thanking me for providing them with escape from the pain of their lives as they read my books.

The fact that my stories have been able to help these people facing their diseases with dignity and courage brought me to tears…truly better than any award my books could ever win!”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“I’ve had so many amazing letters from readers world-wide; one that I loved came from the mother of seven-year-old twin girls who, after reading SOUVENIR, was inspired to create a journal for their future benefit, and to buy each of them a copy of SOUVENIR, which she was storing away in their “hope chests” to be read when they’re teens. A recent letter of praise from a woman who is a Medical Social Worker and who deals every day with patients in heartbreaking situations was also very rewarding.”

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“The young woman who wrote to say that she was able to finally extricate herself from both her dysfunctional marriage and her ongoing affair with her also-married boss because she read “Inappropriate Men”. She wrote from her fabulous new job, where she had met her fabulous (and single!) new boyfriend who worked in the same building. She said that she had felt completely trapped and that the book helped her find her spine. That e-mail gave me goosebumps.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“My most memorable wasn’t my best, but a long letter quoting all the passages from my first book that had anything to do with sex and suggesting that I and the letter writer would really understand one another. (Oh, dear.) I also remember one I got after my second book, which was about female friendship, from a woman who’d lost her best friend in Iraq. That one was lovely and very sad.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I received a letter from a 93 year-old woman who said that she loved my book and was so glad it was available in large print. She went on to say that she read it twice because, at her age, she was running out of time and didn’t know if she’d be around if/when the movie came out. It was so touching.”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I think it would have to be after I published a short story in a literary journal that was put out by a university in Florida years ago. It was handwritten – a page and a half long – from a young woman who claimed to have read the story so many times she felt like the characters were people she knew. She went on to tell me she had written a paper on the story for her English seminar class. It was a pretty cool ego boost for a struggling writer who wrote late at night after work.”

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“I love every bit of fan mail I get. From the adorable one-line emails just telling me how much they enjoyed the book to the detailed breakdowns of all of the elements they liked (and why). I get a lot of emails saying I’ve inspired them to write (very flattering), a lot saying that they can relate to Alexis and her sense of outsiderness (very touching), and a lot with interpretations of the book that reflect a cinematic mind at work (very interesting). I am convinced that I have the brightest and funniest fans of any book, ever! I must say, I especially love getting snailmail (as TDW might be aware).”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“One of my favorite notes was from a reader who enjoyed my debut with a stiff drink and added, “Only wished I had a joint to join Mira” who is, as constant TDW readers will know, the flower child grandmother protagonist. I think my favorite fan interaction was in person, at my book launch event. A woman I didn’t know told me she went out and scheduled her mammogram after reading about how my protagonist delayed her own, with severe consequences. I was so touched and honored that my book prompted her to take such an important step, and that she felt moved to share that with me.”

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Announcement: The winners of Jenny Nelson’s debut novel Georgia’s Kitchen are Keetha and Maria M.. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Stacey Ballis

September 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Stacey Ballis (The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography), described as “wickedly funny and brutally honest,” celebrated the release of her most recent novel, Good Enough to Eat, a few weeks ago. Another book for the “foodie” in you, this story offers a terrific twist along with 40 healthy recipes.

From the book’s front cover comes this two sentence descriptive tease:

She learned how to eat right. Living right is the hard part.

And this praise:

“Like a perfect dish of macaroni and cheese–rich, warm, nuanced, and delicious.”__Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author of My Fair Lady

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Good Enough to Eat for Monday, October 4, 2010 but until then let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

In addition to being a novelist, Stacey Ballis is a lifestyle and entertaining expert, who previously appeared on The Rachael Ray Show and other television programs. She lives in Chicago.

And now it’s time get to know Stacey upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Spectacular, abundant, delicious, blessed, Love, words, family, friends

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Go big or go home. Also, if it smells bad don’t eat it.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Feeling content in your own skin, more laughter than tears, appreciating the people around you, good work, good food, good friends, profound love.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Not achieving my full potential. Also, swimming face first into jellyfish.

Q; If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: At The French Laundry with my man.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: MFK Fisher.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My sister.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Issues. Frankly. Catawampus.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be? A: Predicting lottery numbers. (For the homeless.)

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My relationships with friends, family, and the love of my life.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Hate exercise. Makes wanting to live long healthy life a pain in the ample tush.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Compassion.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: The buzz cut in 1983. Yikes.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Me. Truly! (But Heidi Klum wouldn’t be bad for a weekend….)

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A:I have great eyes. Unless it is humid, and then people tend to notice the hair-shrubbery first.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Francis Urquart from House of Cards.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Walter Payton. I would just say Thank You.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Manipulation of people, especially those who are not up to intellectual challenge. Also, nose picking not so nice.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Cooking with/for my guy and our friends and family.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Five star hotel tester.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you? A: Honesty, generosity of spirit, sense of humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A; My godmother’s Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Dvorak’s Symphony for a New World, John Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith in Me, The Beatles In My Life, Frank Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: MFK Fisher The Art of Eating, Marion Zimmer Bradley The Mists of Avalon, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Keep up with the multi-talented and very humorous Stacey Ballis by following her on Twitter and becoming a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Nelson’s Georgia’s Kitchen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Jenny Nelson and Georgia’s Kitchen. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Karen McQuestion on Keeping the Faith

September 21, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused releasing today, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11 coming November 2, 2010) believed she was born to write and write she did, novel after novel for almost ten years. The only problem was they weren’t being published. In today’s guest post, the author describes what happened in her literary version of, “If you build it, they will come.”]

Keeping the Faith

I didn’t set out to become a self-publishing guru, but lately I’m finding myself in that role. When I first self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, I had modest expectations. At most, I’d hoped to gain a few readers and make a little money. As it turned out, I got so much more than that. Just over a year later, I’ve sold over 75,000 e-books, signed contracts for five books, and have a film option on one of my novels.

Originally I was a freelance writer with credits that included Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune and the Denver Post. But it was when I started writing novels that I really came into my own. I loved writing fiction and longed to get my work out in the world and into readers’ hands.

I wrote novel after novel for nearly a decade and made every attempt to get them published. Over the years, I had two different agents represent my work. I got complimentary feedback from editors, but neither book sold.
Later I was a semi-finalist in a novel contest, but the book didn’t make it through to the next round. I submitted to publishers on my own, and got encouraging notes, but no offers. It was very disheartening and somewhat embarrassing. When friends and relatives asked how the writing was going, I felt like the biggest loser ever.

It would have been easy to give up, but I didn’t. I knew I was made to do this.

And so it went until I read an article about a writer who uploaded his unpublished novels to be available for sale on Amazon’s Kindle as e-books, and was so successful he went on to sign a contract with Simon & Schuster. I was familiar with the Kindle, but had never seen one. In fact, I’d never seen any e-book device. Prior to reading the article, I hadn’t known writers could self-publish on the Kindle, but now I was intrigued. I learned all I could about uploading and marketing a Kindle book, and decided to go for it.

I uploaded two books at first, but didn’t tell too many people. I figured I could always take the books off Amazon if there weren’t any sales, and no one would be the wiser. But an amazing thing happened shortly after the books became available for sale: someone bought one. And that was just the beginning. The sales rolled in, just a few at first, but more every day.

Within a few weeks, I started getting emails from readers who enjoyed the books and wanted to know if I had any others. Spurred on by these requests and my initial sales, I got out my remaining manuscripts, did some revising and uploaded them one by one. After a few months, readers started recommending my books on the message boards and the word of mouth helped drive sales. The increased sales helped my rankings, which gave my titles added visibility and led to more sales.

Over the course of the first several months, my husband and I found ourselves exchanging the same few words to each other: unbelievable, amazing, unreal. Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe that people are reading and enjoying my books. I’ve wanted this for so long that it feels too good to be true.

In November 2009, five months after I began this venture, I got an email from Eric Lake, the head of an L.A. production company. The email asked for the contact information of the person handling the movie rights for my novel, A Scattered Life. Apparently no one had told Eric that there was no such person, only me, a woman typing in her basement. I did a search to see if this was a legitimate production company (it was) before responding.

During the next week, Eric and I talked on the phone, and emailed back and forth. Once we agreed on terms, we were able to finalize the deal. He envisions my novel as a full length feature film along the lines of Little Miss Sunshine, a movie I love. So far the project is on track and I hope to eventually see my story on the big screen.

At the beginning of December 2009, I had steady sales and a film option and couldn’t imagine my life getting any better. Then I received an email from Terry Goodman, Senior Content Acquisition Editor for Amazon’s new publishing division, AmazonEncore. The email congratulated me on the film option and mentioned the novel’s positive reviews, but this was my favorite line in the whole email: I would love to speak to you about acquiring the rights for the physical book under the AmazonEncore imprint. At that point, I wasn’t even pursuing traditional publication, so this was an unexpected, wonderful bonus. I was excited about partnering with AmazonEncore, especially after talking to Terry, a smart, funny man, who shared my vision for the novel.

The new version of A Scattered Life has already been released on Kindle and paperback, and is doing extremely well. Four more of my previously self-published books are now also under contract with AmazonEncore, and will be published in the next several months.

I didn’t set out to be a self-publishing guru, but I guess I am one now. I get emails all the time from other writers who’ve heard about my publishing journey. They say that my story is very much like theirs. They know about the rejections, the encouraging letters, and the agent failures. I understand where they’re coming from. They love to write and want to connect with readers. It would be easy for them to give up, but they aren’t going to. They feel like they were made to do this.

I share what I know, then tell them to keep the faith and be open to new things. Opportunities present themselves, sometimes when you least expect it, and often when you’ve almost given up hope.

Note: To celebrate the launch of Easily Amused, Karen is having a four Book Giveaway — today through Saturday. Please visit her Blog to enter.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Nelson’s Georgia’s Kitchen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Jenny Nelson and Georgia’s Kitchen. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Jenny Nelson and Georgia’s Kitchen

September 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


According to Jenny Nelson, the best advice she ever received on writing a novel was, “to write the book I wanted to read.” It took years to complete but when the author debuted with Georgia’s Kitchen on August 3, 2010, she had told a story that also appealed to countless readers. The proof: Five star reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders!

Ah reviews, the author’s main character Georgia Gray knows them well. From the novel’s title one would expect the storyline to be character driven and Jenny confirms this by saying:

“When I started writing what would eventually become Georgia’s Kitchen, I had already decided: I wanted to read about a chef. A successful, funny, savvy, thirty-something chef who’s arrived at her position with some difficulty, but who clearly belongs where she is. Someone who’s both tough and vulnerable, who doesn’t disappear into the wallpaper, who rises to the occasion (except when she doesn’t – and there are definitely a few of these moments in Georgia’s Kitchen!) and who wouldn’t even consider giving up without a fight.”

Of course Georgia had to earn her reputation in the best of locations to be believable and the debut novelist went for the brass rings:

‘The setting was never in question: New York City, the big-time for chefs and one of my favorite places in the world. And because I’m a huge Italiaphile who loves all things Italy (food, wine, people, architecture, film, clothing, design), I decided to send Georgia to Italy, mecca for chefs. ”

On the other hand, Jenny did not want her first book to be merely, entertaining, occasionally glamorous, and even humorous. Instead she wanted: “Georgia to deal with real emotions and conflict, to be pushed outside her comfort zone and, ultimately, to triumph. I wanted a heroine I could root for until the very last page.”

The bottom line: Georgia was created to be a woman of substance and her story evolved into this synopsis:

Getting burned—in and out of the kitchen—might be the best thing that ever happened to Georgia Gray.

At 33, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants, a posse of smart and savvy gal pals who never let her down, and a platinum-set, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome entertainment lawyer who Georgia’s overbearing mother can’t wait for her to marry. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding.

Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef who seems to have it all—a devoted lover, a magnificent villa, and most importantly, a kitchen of her own. Georgia quells her longings with Italy’s delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni, an expert in the vineyard and the bedroom. So when Gianni tempts Georgia to stay in Italy with an offer no sane top chef could refuse, why can’t she say yes?

An appetite for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. But having left New York with her career in flames, she’ll need to stir up more than just courage if she’s to realize her dreams and find her way home.

In addition to readers’ raves, there’s professional Praise AND the Excerpt of Chapter One.

Also view the video for an opportunity to Step Inside Georgia’s Kitchen with Jenny Nelson.

However the actual behind-the-scenes look into Georgia’s life and the restaurants that she finds herself working in are flawlessly described by the author’s writing. This book is a sensory feast that allows the reader to smell, taste, see, hear, and touch everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to the crowded streets of Manhattan, and finally a peaceful garden villa in the Italian countryside. The breathtaking depth of description flows, reading as a natural (and necessary) complement to Georgia’s tale. How was Jenny able to weave the two together so effortlessly? The Divining Wand asked and the author replied:

“I really focus on what I see in my head and jot down first impressions, usually very long-winded first impressions, and then edit that down to its essence so that I’m saying as little as I can while being as evocative as possible. Does that make sense? I love description, especially as a counter balance to dialogue, so it was very important to me to get it right”

Right? Let’s say the author nailed it! But to write from the perspective of restaurant chef — complete with daily kitchen procedure and business operations –, how did Jenny manage that?

“I interviewed tons of chefs (I’m friendly with several and most are all too happy to talk about themselves!), but never observed a kitchen in a formal way.”

And for what was probably the best part of her research, the author says:

“I ate a lot! I studied menus and recipes and ate in as many restaurants as my waistline and my wallet could afford. It was a blast.”

All of the above, of course, is fun, enlightening, and showcases the world in which Georgia Gray works and lives. An independent young woman with determined ambition, she’s on track personally and professionally….but lacks happiness. The reason? Perhaps it’s because other people’s expectations for what she should be doing don’t fit into her personal timeline. Or perhaps she only thinks she knows her wants and needs….at the moment.

Refreshingly honest, this character accepts what is beyond her control and bounces back to try again. Indeed she’s vulnerable but the lack of whining and/or playing the blame game will have — as Jenny wanted — readers rooting her on until the last page. Besides Georgia has learned through her life experiences that settling for anything other than your dream does not offer happiness.

In time somehow the path to one’s dreams is found and, if still looking for yours, its inspired direction might be discovered somewhere within the pages of Georgia’s Kitchen. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Nelson’s Georgia’s Kitchen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Current and Coming Attractions

September 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Book Trailers, News

Although The Divining Wand authors have been busy writing, publishing, and keeping TBR books piled high, it’s only natural to wonder what’s next for our favorite writers. And what follows is a tasty sampling to whet your reading appetite.

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As of today, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, releasing in paperback September 21, 2010, The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA coming January 4, 2011, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) celebrates the paperback release of Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood with the first video in a series of six.

As Eileen explains:

“The idea behind the videos is that the snotty Lauren Wood has her own video blog where she offers popularity tips. You can probably imagine what great advice Lauren has! I am going to have videos come out every couple days until all six are up. Please visit Lauren’s new website and click on the You Tube icon.

And now for the future:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’m currently working on a book set on a private island off the west coast of Florida about a woman who has experienced the premature death of her mother and sets out to find the family she never knew while her mother was alive. Tentative title: The Blooms of Ella Island.”

~Stacey Ballis (The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography, and Good Enough to Eat):

“Working on a new book that is a real departure for me, much more mainstream fiction. It is a questing story of a young woman who may or may not be dying, and how it explodes her quiet life.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“I’ll be appearing at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, TN, October 8-10. The paperback release of ALICE I HAVE BEEN is December 28th and I’ll be touring for that in January, dates & locations TBA. I’ve been blogging for the Huffington Post, and just joined a new group blog called the Girlfriends’ Book Club. My next historical fiction will be released by Random House in August of 2011; I’ll be announcing the title of the book very shortly!”

~Meg Waite Clayton’s The Wednesday Sisters, The Four Ms. Bradwells coming March 22, 2011):

“The Four Ms. Bradwells, coming March 22 from Ballantine. And my first novel, The Language of Light, will be reissued in paperback in the summer.”

The flap copy:

Meg Waite Clayton’s national bestseller The Wednesday Sisters was a word-of-mouth sensation and book club favorite. Now the beloved author is back with a page-turning novel that explores the secrets we keep, even from those closest to us, and celebrates the enduring power of friendship.

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I’ve just finished up the third Lydia McKenzie mystery, tentatively called “‘An Artful Death.'” Lydia is hired by a real estate company to help catch illegal tenants. She finds an elderly Russian woman murdered in her apartment and suspects that the landlord got impatient. In the midst of her investigation, her parents arrive with another mystery to solve.”

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“I’m working on a novel set in an underwater-themed amusement park. The main character is an eighteen-year-old former competitive figure skater whose now skates in the park’s ice show wearing a full-body jellyfish costume. One of the most fun parts of writing this so far is brainstorming ideas for amusement park rides! (My five-year-old daughter has been helping me.)”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“I’m working on my new novel, A THOUSAND CRANES.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“I’m working on a piece for an anthology of dog-related essays that Wade Rouse is editing called I’M NOT THE BIGGEST BITCH IN THIS RELATIONSHIP. Published in 2011, proceeds will benefit The Humane Society and other animal causes.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I’ve begun a new novel. If it were a pregnancy, I’m in that hesitant phase of the first trimester, and I’m not ready to discuss too much. I can tell this: The next novel also centers on family relationships and has medical themes because that’s what I’m interested in. Having finished a book, I feel I have a good sense of the arc of a novel, the overall shape it will take. I also know how long and hard the process is. My hope is that this gestation will be briefer than the last.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I am working on my second novel right now. I can tell you that the book is about a woman who has to correct a mistake she doesn’t know she made and guiding her through this process is her best friends dead brother.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“I’m working on a book about adult siblings. It started out being about location and identity (I was going to call it ELSEWHERE) but it’s gotten further and further away from that theme to become about all the complex emotions of siblinghood. Which, alas, probably means I have to think of a new title.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“I’m working on a non-fiction book called “‘Marriage in Translation: Interviews with Foreign Wives of Japanese Husbands,'” which takes an intimate and sometimes surprising look at the rewards and challenges of cross-cultural relationships. I’m also teaching an online class this Fall through Stanford University Extension called “‘Writing Novels About Women’s Lives.”‘

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Announcement: The winner of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife is Shannon. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

And thank you all for entering. If my wand was truly magical, there would be a book for everyone.

The Revealing of Karen McQuestion

September 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused coming September 21, 2010, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11 coming November 2, 2010) proclaims to be “the luckiest writer in the world.” Why? Because her dream(s) of being published are coming true…one book following the other. The author explains:

“After years of trying to get published traditionally, I self-published my books on Amazon’s Kindle in 2009. Sales were great, and as a result, I now have five books (paperback and e-book) coming out under the AmazonEncore imprint, and one novel, A Scattered Life, optioned for film.”

Also there’s great praise for A Scattered Life:

“An emotional and engaging novel about family.” – Delia Ephron, author of The Girl with the Mermaid Hair

“McQuestion writes with a sharp eye and a sure voice, and as a reader, I was willing to go wherever she wanted to take me. After I finished the book, I thought about how I might describe it to a friend, and I settled on a phrase that says a lot without saying very much at all. It’s the way these conversations usually end: “‘You should read this. It’s good.'” –Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found, and The Nobodies Album

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of A Scattered Life for Monday, September 27, 2010. However, in the meantime, let’s meet the author by reading her “official” bio:

Karen McQuestion’s essays have appeared in Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor and several anthologies. She is the author of six books self-published on Amazon’s Kindle, one of which, the novel, A Scattered Life, caught the attention of an L.A. based production company and became the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film. Five of her previously self-published books will now be published by AmazonEncore. McQuestion lives with her family in Hartland, Wisconsin.

And now for the upclose/personal revealing of Karen:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Unpredictable, ever changing, a little messy, always interesting.

Q; What is your motto or maxim?
A: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
I made that one up just now.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A weekend with nothing planned.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: I have a lot of anxieties, but my biggest fear is that something bad will happen to one of my kids.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Standing on a digital scale with “120 lbs” in the display.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Louisa May Alcott, because both of us are writers and the second of four daughters.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Erin Brockovich

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: In my writing: seem, look, nodded. In real life: “Do you know what I mean?”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: It’s a tie between being invisible and flying. Or else being a really good cook.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Getting my older son out of bed in the morning for four years of high school. I seriously doubt many people could have done it and kept their sanity.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m a bit of a control freak.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Empathy.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Regrets, I have more than a few. Most of them involve hurting other people’s feelings.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Myself, only taller, prettier, and ten years younger.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I blend in well in a crowd.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: The Count of Monte Cristo

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Hannibal Lecter

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: To any of them I’d say, “Dude, you don’t need to be running around all the time. Have you heard of reading a book?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Women who are effortlessly thin.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: For the purpose of this reveal, we’ll say reading in my favorite recliner.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Stand-up comedian

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Sense of humor, compassion, intelligence.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, butter, and cream.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Right now:
Für Elise by Beethoven
My Heart Will Go On (Celine Dion)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
So Happy Together (The Turtles)
Cooler Than Me (Mike Posner)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Talented, determined, and very grateful, Karen McQuestion’s success is limitless. Discover what’s next for her by following on Twitter and becoming a fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Leah Stewart and Husband and Wife. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.